The next generation of Haida artists is represented by Robert Davidson. In 1966, Bill Reid introduced himself to the young Robert Davidson, who was conducting a carving demonstration at a department store in Vancouver. At the age of twenty, Davidson began an eighteen-month apprenticeship with Reid, then continued his education at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design. A few years later, he was already distinguishing himself as a thoughtful and talented artist. Much has been written about his maturation as one of the new master artists of the Haida tradition.
One of the early features of Robert Davidson's work was the fact that he was rooted in the Haida community of Masset where he had spent his early years. Through his grandmother Florence Edenshaw Davidson, he was linked to artists Charles Edenshaw and Albert Edward Edenshaw. His grandfather Robert Davidson Sr. was a carver and a hereditary chief of the town of Kayung, and his father, Claude Davidson, was a carver who inspired his sons Robert and Reg (who is an artist in his own right) to express their heritage through art and other cultural activities, including dancing.
Robert Davidson's period of apprenticeship was brief, and he mastered much of the sophistication of Haida art in his twenties. He carved a totem pole for the village of Masset and, encouraged and aided by his family, raised it with appropriate ceremonies in 1969. A series of exquisite prints in the 1970s expanded his reputation, and in 1978 he completed a commission from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to create a distinctive memorial to Charles Edenshaw, who had been declared an artist of national significance. Unfortunately, the traditional Haida house with its carved and painted memorial housefront burned to the ground a year later.
A commission in 1984 from the Maclean Hunter Company for its new headquarters in Toronto resulted in possibly the oddest pole raising on record. The triple Three Watchmen pole was lowered into place in an atrium by a 15-storey crane from the sky world. In 1986, the Pepsi Cola company commissioned a set of three poles called Three Variations on Killer Whale Myths for its international sculpture park outside New York City.
The apogee of Robert Davidson's art is possibly the large gilded bronze sculpture Raven Bringing Light to the World -- over a metre (3 feet) in diameter -- commissioned by Dr. Margaret Hess of Calgary in honour of the dedication of the Grand Hall at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1986. In this piece, the humanlike face that simultaneously represents the sun, the moon and the stars contrasts effectively with the encircling bas-relief design of the Raven with his all-devouring beak holding the combined celestial bodies.
In 1994, the Canadian Museum of Civilization co-sponsored a retrospective exhibit, "Eagle of the Dawn," that brought together three decades of Robert Davidson's work and filled 930 m2 (10,000 square feet) of exhibition space. He continues to work in gold and silver, as well as creating masks and prints and undertaking commissions for monumental sculptures. The fact that Robert Davidson is only slighter older now than Bill Reid was when he began to create art in the Haida style suggests that Davidson has many further contributions to make.